As with most other industries, the commerce industry had to adapt to the infiltration of the internet. As computers became more and more popular and e-commerce sites pop up like mushrooms after the rain, a new model of marketing and selling became available.
With e-stores and web sites, comparing prices became a non-issue. Long trips to other stores to find a competitive price were no longer needed as your competitors are but a click away.
So if you can’t compete on price, what can you do to thrive?
Customer Service Is More Than About Care
The answer: customer service. Why?
Because it’s one of the last “edge” you can pursue over your competitors. As a small business, you can give each customer the attention they will never get dealing with corporations.
While CEOs view customer service as a “cost”, you view them as an investment. And when they find ways to cut the cost down, you’ll be looking for ways to invest strategically.
And even in customer-service-centric industries, few people really master it. This is because customer service is an art. With that said, there ARE a few best practices for you to get started.
Here are 7 of them.
7 Ways To Deliver Superior Customer Service
1. Encourage everyone in the organization to take an active role and come up with solutions to customer service problems. Create an atmosphere where people can express their ideas without being ridiculed or embarrassed in front of their peers because remember, the best ideas to improve your customer service will probably come from the bottom.
2. Never use a script. When is the last time you hear a representative read off a script and love it? Never. You probably wanted to scream at him/her. And don’t think people can’t tell either.
Instead, train your employees in human relationships and empathy. For example, repeat the problems customers told you because repetition has been shown to make people feel understood.
Or try putting their issues on priority. The point is to go above and beyond of what is expected of you.
3. You have to pay your customer service well, but never incentivize them for “resolving issues”. Incentivizing, studies have shown, is great for monotonous task, and customer service is anything but that.
Instead, try alternatives such as recognition and personal thanks. The best representatives love what they do – and those who do it for the money won’t be able to deliver at the level you want.
4. Your customer’s expectation changes with time. Learn to adjust. What was good enough years ago, and since copied by your competitors, might not be unique enough. For example, recorded messages were once cutting edge. Today, they are just plain annoying.
Use customer surveys to see what your customers think. Better yet, ask your representatives for suggestions.
5. Check to see what the norm in your field is, and go one step further. Try to build a reputation of someone who keeps his word and his promises. It doesn’t mean you have to agree to every whim of a customer.
A great example of this is Zappos. I’m sure you’ve heard of their legendary customer service. The norm in any industry is for customer service to “resolve issues”. Zappos took it one step further: they send birthday cards during birthdays, or condolences when a customer suffers from a tragedy.
They even answer questions unrelated to them: like telling the caller where to find pizzas at 2am.
6. Develop a culture where finger pointing comes last. The first thing you have to do is make it right with the customer. Offer a compensation for the bad experience. The second thing is to examine the system: do you need to tweak it for other representatives won’t commit the same mistake?
7. Respect and appreciate your complaining customers. They can show you where your organization is lacking. Remember, if a client complains, there’s a good chance you’ll still have his business. Those who aren’t happy and don’t complain take their business somewhere else.
At the end of the day, customer service is the face of your company. Put your best people on the front. Service is the currency that keeps your company going. Invest in it.
About the Author: Andrianes Pinantoan is part of the team behind Open Colleges, an online courses provider with a great range of business management courses. When not working, he can be found with a camera on hand. You can follow him at Google+.
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